No More Nova- And now the World Knows

At last the plight of English teachers trapped in Japan because of unpaid salaries has made the British media– I hope it spreads further.

Update– Now the story is one of the top ones on Google world news, so it must have garnered quite a lot of attention. Also, a bit of research has shown that even the Australian Embassy wants to avoid providing financial help to teachers in a difficult situation- ‘except in some circumstances’, whilst the British embassy so far rules it out, downplaying it as a private corporate affair, rather than an international issue (which it actually is). This means that people without the means to fly home will have to borrow from friends or, if that fails, simply get stuck, waiting for unemployment insurance, hoping that they can make ends meet until it comes. I’ve had some periods in Japan between jobs, which my savings have comfortably covered. It wasn’t too bad, as I just did things that were free or next to free (such as reading in the library, walking in the park, where you could sometimes see victims of restructuring who were keeping it secret from their wives). Fortunately, back then there were more jobs than teachers, so it was a question of waiting for the right one rather than feeling too desperate.

All this shows that if you are going to make such a drastic move as moving to live for a time in a foreign country, you had better have some good savings to make it possible, bringing your own personal safety-net with you. Unfortunately, NOVA, like JET, especially tried to appeal to people about to leave university, who often have more debt (which they hope to pay back with their earnings here) than savings! (JET, by the way, is only going to continue for a few more years, cheaper agencies being used instead- a scary thought for the schools of japan, knowing what these agencies can be like). As far as how this will effect English teaching in Japan, whether this will lead to a shake-out or a decline is anyone’s guess. There is certainly a massive market for English skills- but will potential students be put off the whole thing?

Some people are suggesting that people should try and find private students to teach in the mean-time, there being quite a few thousand potential ones that NOVA can no longer teach. The good thing about private students is the informal friendliness and of course being your own boss. The only problem with the situation being that, without good sales techniques, it is hard to get private students to pay generously. I myself just had one ask me to teach her kids’ class for free!! The fact that teachers here actually need to pay for so many things- food, bills, rent- is an alien idea to many students and it is indeed hard to get them to take their responsibilities to the teacher seriously- one of the many reasons why I prefer to rely on ‘real’ schools rather than ‘conversation schools’, or, for that matter, ‘privates’ (though these can for certain be good sidelines). Others seem to make those options work pretty well, often because they prefer teaching adults who really want to learn, so good luck to them- but even the more experienced ones need to remember how quickly things can change in those businesses and the sudden change of hearts or bizarre requests that the customers can have- not to mention their changing financial situations. Flexibility and positive takes on situations are pretty much necessary- you either go with the flow, or the flow will go with you!

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